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Winnipeg warms up to Aboriginal music


By Shauna Lewis Windspeaker Contributor WINNIPEG







No need to wait until fall’s Aboriginal Music Manitoba Festival to get a dose of Aboriginal rock, blues, hip hop and rap. A sample taste of the festival is set to hit the city just in time for summer.

The 6th annual Aboriginal Music Manitoba Festival is on the docket for Nov. 1 to 5, but organizers have planned an Aboriginal Music Week 2011 Warm-Up Weekend that will feature two nights of performances June 17 and June 18.

It’s a way for us to keep our audience engaged and to present some really great music,” explained Alan Greyeyes, a member of the Peguis First Nation and chairperson for Aboriginal Music Manitoba Inc., the non-profit production company hosting the festival.
Greyeyes explained that while the festival attracts a vast array of participants, organizers are set on enticing the newest generation of music lovers by appealing to their interests.

“With the festival we really want to develop Aboriginal youth as an audience,” he said, explaining that Winnipeg boasts a 10 per cent Aboriginal population, half being young people.

In order to attract the twenty-something crowd, organizers have planned a hip hop event during the course of the weekend, as well as a night of entertainment delivered by popular Aboriginal rocker George Leach.

The November festival, which started in 2005, attracted nearly 4,300 people last year and showcased  30 live performances. This year the festival is promising 35 acts, said Greyeyes.

But while attendance numbers keep rising, Greyeyes said he would like to see the public plan for the event.

“One of the many challenges is getting people to purchase tickets in advance,” he said, adding that getting people out to enjoy live music during the week and in theatre venues instead of only nightclubs and bars is another obstacle he hopes can be overcome.

But regardless of the challenges, Greyeyes said the Aboriginal music scene is flourishing.

“It [the music scene] is getting stronger and stronger,” he said. “It’s one-step toward a year-round concert series,” he predicted.

Kim Ziervogal agreed. She is a board member with Aboriginal Music Manitoba Inc., and an Ojibwa producer of ‘Ab- Originals’ weekly national Aboriginal music Podcast.

“It’s definitely building an audience and getting stronger,” she said.

“Winnipeg has a really strong Aboriginal music scene,” she continued. “Winnipeg musicians have a really unique way of supporting one another. The artists support other artists in everything they do,” she explained, adding that she thinks the city’s local Aboriginal music scene trumps that of Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton.

Further, Ziervogal said the public appeal of Aboriginal Music can only mature over time and she compared the increasing popularity of the scene to that of the growing widespread appreciation of Canadian musicians on the global stage during the past 20 years.

Ziervogal hopes the music warm-up weekend and the fall festival will paint an accurate picture of the vibrant arts scene alive in Winnipeg.

“It’s always keeping people in the loop and making people understand that it [the festival] is not just one week in November when the artists descend on this community,” she said. “This community is always here and there’s always lots of shows you can go to.”

Aboriginal Music Manitoba Inc.’s two nights of concerts planned for June 17 and 18 are as follows:

George Leach presented by CBC Manitoba Scene with Burnt-Project 1 is scheduled Friday, June 17 at 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at The Pyramid Cabaret, 176 Fort Street, Winnipeg. Tickets are $15, and 18-plus please with ID required.

The Electric Pow Wow presented by Streetz FM is dance hall, hip hop, and “pow wow step” with the Native DJ collective A Tribe Called Red. Onsite party portraits by Thoshography. This will be held on June 18 from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m.; also at The Pyramid Cabaret. Tickets are $15, and 18-plus, please, with ID required.

Photo Caption: George Leach will perform in Winnipeg on June 17 as part of the Aboriginal Music

Photo Credit: Nadya Kwandibens